Some of my favorite memories from 10 years of covering the Bears and the Northwest League came in 2010, when Bob Didier was Yakima’s manager and Doug Drabek was the pitching coach.
Both were ex-major leaguers and both had fascinating stories to share. And while there was occasional embellishment, Drabek, the 1990 National League Cy Young Award winner while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, didn’t need to stretch the truth much.
Nonetheless, my favorite memory of that season resulted from something that occurred after a game.
On July 4 of that year, Drabek’s son, Kyle, pitched a no-hitter for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a Toronto Blue Jays Class AA affiliate. Word reached Drabek while Yakima’s game was in progress, and afterward in the Yakima County Stadium coach’s office he was having a proud phone conversation with his son while I was interviewing Didier.
Later, a beaming Drabek described his phone call.
“He was pitching at home (Manchester, N.H.), and by the time I got hold of him he was at a bar across the street from his apartment,” he said. “He said once the people in the bar found out he’d pitched a no-hitter, they started buying him drinks. So I just wanted to talk to him while I could still understand him.”
Drabek was an exceedingly good guy and, by all accounts, a very good pitching coach. He and Didier worked well together, and on one of that season’s off days drove to Suncadia to play golf.
We all had arranged to have dinner that night, and at about 5 p.m. I got a phone call from Didier.
“We just finished our second 18,” he said, “and we might be a little late, but we’re on our way. The golf has been good but the stories have been better. We’ve been telling lies all day. Thirty minutes ago, I was a really good hitter.”
Drabek was promoted by the Arizona Diamondbacks to long-season Class A Visalia for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and for the coming campaign has been assigned to the Hillsboro Hops.
So the former Bears will have two names familiar to Yakima fans on their staff, since Audo Vicente has been named Hillsboro’s manager. Vicente was the Bears’ skipper the past two seasons.